The OG Anunoby-Precious Achiuwa combo is the Knicks' secret playoff weapon

Kristian Winfield, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

“He showed a lot of mental toughness. DeMar is a lot to deal with on every possession,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He’s a great shot maker. One of the best. And, OG, the thing I love, he’s going to make you work. Even if you score, he’s going come back the next time and do it again and again and again. That’s what I love about him. His staying power.”

The Knicks are headed to the playoffs. They both secured the East’s No. 2 seed and recorded 50 wins in a season for the first time since Carmelo Anthony’s team won 54 games in the 2012-13 NBA season.

New York will own home-court advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Knicks are destined to face either the No. 7 Philadelphia 76ers or the No. 8 Miami Heat, who will face each other in the Play-In Tournament’s Seven-Eight Game to determine the seventh seed advancing into the playoffs.

And while the Knicks will live and die on Jalen Brunson’s All-Star sword, defensive versatility is the calling card for a team whose identity morphed with a mid-season trade struck just a few ticks before the calendar turned to the New Year.

It was the day the Knicks traded R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley — two capable scorers but net-negative defenders — for Anunoby and Achiuwa: two versatile defenders expanding their offensive roles in New York.

And while Anunoby — and his neutralizing abilities as an individual defender — was the highlight of the deal, Achiuwa has emerged as a rotation player on a playoff-bound team.


He’s proven to be a versatile defender who can come up with big stops in high-pressure situations like he did with for the Knicks Sunday afternoon.

He’s proven to be part of a one-two defensive punch Thibodeau can deploy at any moment in the playoffs.

“They played great. They got key stops,” Brunson said of Anunoby and Achiuwa postgame. “It’s what they do. We’re not surprised. We’re just happy that they make plays like that.”

This is as close as it’ll ever get to there being a Toronto Knicks team: Anunoby and Achiuwa on the floor together, mirroring the defensive versatility which previously propelled the Raptors to perpetual playoff status.


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